A Great Truth About the Past
I find myself watching more and more TV shows that were written, produced and aired in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I’ll even put up with black and white. In fact I’ll feel a bit nostalgic remembering the good old days when Tinkerbell on the Wonderful World of Disney, with a touch of her magic wand transformed my TV from black and white into “living color”.
I like the heroes of the past, it was as clear as black and white hats as to who the good guys were and who were the bad guys. They always did something honorable, heroic, definitely worth remembering. The stories seemed to uphold the timeless values of honesty, sacrifice, hard work and all things clean. Of course it never occurred to me that the good guys of the past were just that – guys who all looked the same. Same general height, weight, age and of course, race. Memory has this great ability to focus on what it wants to hold on to and forget what it chooses to leave out. The past should be remembered, in many ways revered, and in all ways it should be a source of learning about the bold and beautiful as well as the bad and the ugly. Regardless how much we may want it to be so, the one thing we cannot do with the past is to live in the past. An obvious but great truth, the past has passed.
Look at some of the heroes of our faith – Abel who offered a better sacrifice, Enoch who walked with God, Noah who built a really big boat for really rainy days yet to come, Abraham who trusted God to get up and go even when he didn’t know where it would lead, Sarah who came to recognize the impossible is possible with God, Joseph who let bygones be bygones and entrusted his family – past, present and future – into the hands of God, Moses who got past the barriers of slavery, dictators, seas, deserts, rivers, enemy nations and grumbling quitters and Rahab who could trust an enemy to do the right thing. According to Hebrews chapter 11 all of them had one thing in common. They didn’t get stuck longing for the good old days. They all were looking ahead to the future, longing for a better country, a heavenly one. In that pursuit their present situation always had a foretaste of that better place. The “good old days” didn’t occupy their minds or their goals. They longed for, lived for, sacrificed, even died for the “better new days” ahead of them. They didn’t progress forward without understanding the foundations of the past. It wasn’t progressivism for an ambiguous anything goes future. Neither was it an attempt to “let’s make this place great again”. Rather it was simply a mindset fixed on the destination. That new heaven, new earth orientation shaped every decision and determined every step forward.
A lesson from the past that teaches us the need to let go and move forward: May 18, 1980 Harry Randall Truman died. That day Mount Saint Helens exploded with a massive eruption. Despite evacuation orders in the months ahead of the blast, Harry refused to leave his beloved lodge at Spirit Lake, located just north of the mountain. A body was never recovered but presumably Harry Randall Truman, at the age of 83 years, was killed by a pyroclastic flow and buried under 150 feet of volcanic debris. In our own lives or in our church life is there something we’re stubbornly hanging on to even if it means certain death? Have certain preferences actually become idols? It could be it was good, really good in the past but hanging on to it now becomes a fatally flawed strategy.
The Apostle Paul, speaking of the resurrected life says this:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.